ICON, Fall 2006
It has been more than four decades since WM F began leaving its indelible mark on the field of historic preservation and in that time, hundreds of sites have passed through our portfolio—some on the brink of collapse, others needing only an influential friend to champion their cause. But we have never ceased to be amazed at the sites that come our way, ever delighting in what can only be termed the unexpected—a jewel of a synagogue in southern India, a microcosm of Italian modernism in the Horn of Africa, and the final resting place for a Protestant ex-patriot population in the heart of Rome. This issue, we highlight several such unexpected treasures. During the early twentieth century, Asmara—once part of Ethiopia and now capital of a newly independent Eritrea—served as an experimental playground for its Italian colonizers, whose architects filled the city's skyline with all manner of futuristic buildings, which stand sentinel alongside rationalist structures and edifices exhibiting the austere monumentalism of the fascist era.
At Chaalis, just north of Paris, an extraordinary cycle of murals by an Italian Renaissance master has come to light, soon to enter art history books for the very first time (see page 10). And at Cochin, an Indian port city on the Arabian Sea, Jewish spice traders from Spain, the Netherlands, and other European countries built the Paradesi Synagogue, which traces its origins to the mid-sixteenth century (see page 24). As the deadline for submissions for WMF's 2008 Watch list fast approaches, we anxiously await our next round of needy yet wonderful cultural surprises.